The Sixth Commandment vs Compassionate Ending of Life

 

Summary

 

The Bible allows the intentional ending of human life only in specific circumstances. The Bible does not authorize “mercy killing” (intentionally ending the life of a suffering or dying person out of compassion).

Therefore, euthanasia is contrary to Biblical principles.

 

 

The Sixth Commandment

 

The sixth commandment prohibits the intentional killing of humans. Some translations state, “You shall not murder” and others state, “You shall not kill”. Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17

The Catholic Church refers to this commandment as the fifth commandment, but it is the sixth according to the the original Hebrew version.

Only humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Therefore the fact that animal euthanasia is legal and common practice nowadays doesn’t mean human euthanasia should be legal also. The question of whether animal euthanasia is ethical or not is outside the scope of this website.

The extent to which the sixth commandment may apply to the killing of animals is outside the scope of this website. However, it’s worth noting that the killing of animals for food and the use of animal skin for clothing is not prohibited elsewhere in the Torah.

(On this website ‘Torah’ is defined as the Hebrew name for the first five books of the Bible, which were written by Moses in Hebrew. The Torah is also called ‘the Pentateuch’, ‘the law of God’ or ‘the law of Moses’).

 

 

Only Three Exceptions to ‘Do Not Kill’

 

Some people argue that the sixth commandment is not absolute, because exceptions are allowed elsewhere in the Torah. It is true that exceptions are allowed. However, the killing of a suffering person is not one of these exceptions. Humans do not have the authority to add exceptions to God’s law.

Only God has the authority to take human life. Humans may take human life only under God’s delegated authority – according to the exceptions He allowed:

 

 

1. Self-defense at night

 

If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. Exodus 22:2-3

The topic of slavery is outside the scope of this website. However, it’s worth noting that Biblical slavery is different from modern-day slavery. The purpose of slavery in ancient Hebrew culture was to repay a debt. Slaves had rights. Every seventh year slaves were freed and given gifts (Deuteronomy 15:12-15).Biblical slavery should not be used to justify modern-day slavery.

 

 

2. Capital punishment / The death penalty

 

Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” Genesis 9:5-6

God’s law allows capital punishment only within a specific process and within a specific government structure that cannot be applied nowadays – not even in Israel. See here for a detailed discussion on the death penalty.

The debate on modern-day capital punishment is outside the scope of this website.

 

 

3. War

 

God allowed Israel to engage in war, but only in specific battles authorized by Him. The Canaanite groups against which Israel made war were contaminated with Nephilim blood (giants with human and fallen angel ancestry). See Genesis 6:1-4 and Numbers 13:33. Therefore it can be argued that God authorised these wars to purify the human race.

The topic of modern-day war is outside the scope of this website.

 

 

The Shedding of Innocent Blood

 

According to the Bible, the taking of a human life outside the three exceptions mentioned above amounts to “the shedding of innocent blood”.

God hates the shedding of innocent blood and it pollutes the land.

God’s law (Torah) does not allow the killing of a suffering or dying person, even if motivated by compassion. Neither does the Torah allow a person to intentionally end their own life by suicide or assisted suicide. Therefore, assisted dying, euthanasia and assisted suicide constitute “the shedding of innocent blood”.

These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood… Proverbs 6:16-17

Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person. Deuteronomy 27:25

Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22:3

So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.’ Numbers 35:33-34

 

 

Jesus confirmed the Validity of the Sixth Commandment

 

Jesus confirmed that the commandment, “do not kill” or “do not murder”, is still valid in the New Testament.

Jesus said to a young man, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”


He said to Him, “Which ones?”


Jesus said, “You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 19:17b-18

 

 

God’s commandments are still valid today

 

Jesus said that God’s law will remain valid until heaven and earth pass away and “all is fulfilled”.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

 

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

Heaven and earth were the two witnesses when God’s commandments were first given (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). Since heaven and earth are still around as witnesses, the commandments are still valid today.

Jesus said that not even the smallest letter or smallest part of a letter would be removed from God’s law until ‘all is fulfilled’. All has not been fulfilled, because Jesus’ promised Second Coming has not happened yet.

Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3 (emphasis added)

“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

 
Jesus confirmed that the Old Testament is still valid today. Jesus came to “fulfill” (meaning, ‘fully preach’) the Law (the first five books, also called ‘the Torah’) and the Prophets (meaning “the rest of the Old Testament”). Jesus didn’t come to “destroy” or “abolish” either. Therefore, the Old Testament was still valid after Jesus’ death and resurrection and remains valid for Christians today.

 

Paul and John confirmed the validity of God’s commandments

 

The apostle Paul also refers to God’s commandments. Clearly they are still valid after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

God’s commandments are valid for all Christians, because Paul wrote the book of Romans to the Christian church in Rome which consisted of Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews).

Paul implies that breaking the commandments would be harmful to others and not loving. Therefore, Paul’s definition of love does not include ending someone’s life, even if motivated by compassion.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10

 
The apostle John wrote that we love others by loving God and by obeying His commandments (sometimes translated as ‘commands’).

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. 1 John 5:2-4

 

 

Jesus never promoted death over life

 

Jesus never ended the life of a suffering person and He never taught His followers to do so.

Killing is not part of His definition of love.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

 

 

Killing Jesus?

 

We need to meet the needs of suffering people, as much as possible. What we do to “the least of these”, i.e. vulnerable and suffering people, we are really doing to Jesus. Therefore, giving a suffering person a lethal injection (euthanasia) would amount to killing Jesus….

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’


Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’


And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

 

 

Conclusion

 

There is no provision in the Bible for euthanasia, also called ‘mercy killing’: Neither the Hebrew scriptures, the writings of Paul and John, or the teachings of Jesus authorize ending a suffering person’s life, even if motivated by compassion.